Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mayor Lim lauds GOMBURZA

 On that  breezy Sunday morning, one
hundred thirty six years after three Filipino priests
were garroted at Bagumbayan, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim
commemorated the nationalism of Fathers Mariano
Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora and connected it
to the current “communal action”.

Addressing the students in the audience,
Mayor Lim said that both Jose Rizal and Andres
Bonifacio were inspired by Frs. Gomez, Burgos and
Zamora. Dr. Rizal, a twelve-year old lad when the
priests were executed, dedicated to them his novel EL
FILIBUSTERISMO. Apparently, the acronym GOMBURZA is
attributed to Andres Bonifcaio as it was one of the
passwords of the Katipunan.

Fr. Jose Burgos , an Ilocano, son of a Spanish
lieutenant was only thirty five when he was killed. He
was a brilliant theologian and became the second
curate of the Manila Cathedral as well as fiscal of
the Ecclesiastical Court. Perhaps, his being a Spanish
mestizo helped him attain such elevated positions,
denied to indio-Filipino priests who were just as

Fr. Jacinto Zamora was a native of Pandacan and only
two years older than Fr. Burgos on execution day. He
became parish priest of Marikina and Pasig and was
later appointed to the Manila Cathdral, after passing
with flying colors the qualifying examination.
At the time of his death, Fr. Mariano Gomez, a
mestizo Chino from Santa Cruz, Manila, was already
seventy –three.(Mayor Lim took note of the age
similarity). He had a Bachelor of Theology and was
also a lawyer and parish priest of Bacoor, Cavite. He
founded the newspaper called “La Verdad”(“Truth”) where
he exposed the abuses of the Spanish
colonial government as well as the religious orders.

Why were they garroted by the Spanish colonial
government and why didn’t the Church object?

GOMBURZA were members of the COMITE REFORMADOR which was
fighting to secure equal rights for Filipino secular
priests who, for centuries, were discriminated
against by reason of race in the appointments for
parish priests. In the early years of
Christianization, friars of the religious orders had
to man the newly-established parishes for lack of
secular clerics, but eventually, when many native
Filipino became secular priests they were considered
undeserving to be appointed as full parish curates.
Those positions were still reserved for full-blooded
Spanish priests most of whom were from religious
orders and who had grown accustomed to hold political
sway as intermediaries between the State and the
native population.

Because the Church and State were one , colonial
authorities always took the side of the Church and
native priests who clamored for their rights were
considered rebels. On 20 January 1872, a mutiny
exploded in the Spanish naval base in Cavite and
although it had absolutely nothing to do with the
activities of the COMITE REFORMADOR, the three
priests were deliberately implicated. arrested,
charged with sedition, incarcerated at Fort Santiago
and two weeks later were sentenced to death by

A reign of terror followed and many Filipino males
who showed talent and courage, like GOMBURZA, were
rounded up and killed Many of them went into hiding,
some concealed their identities like Paciano
Mercado who changed the family name to Rizal because
he was a friend of Fr. Burgos and his younger brother
a pupil.

After the ceremony, Mayor Alfredo Lim rushed to La
Salle Greenhills to attend the protest Mass for “
communal action” sparked by the revelations of Eng.
Jun Lozada. What a fitting tribute to GOMBURZA!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

From rocks to boulders

 A couple of days after he was appointed
Director-General of the NEDA (National Economic
Development Authority ) Mr. Romulo Neri was
interviewed by a television network (ANC, if memory
serves) where he sounded so candid, cheerful and
idealistic that I began to wonder how long someone
like him could last in the vipers’ tangle of
government. That was sometime in December 2002.
Calmly and with a boyish smile, Mr. Neri answered
with ease and aplomb a barrage of acrid questions from
the program host and tele-viewers about changes in the
President’s economic policies. Earlier, the Chief
Executive had announced that she would be shifting
gears, from macro mode to microeconomics.

Romulo Neri explained the new orientation in a
manner easily grasped by people like me whose
knowledge of economics is quite elementary. He also
revealed that President Arroyo was disheartened that
the policies and programs she had earlier announced in
her first State of the Nation address had not been
implemented to her satisfaction. Neri then compared
President Arroyo’s policies and programs to seeds
planted on fertile ground, watered and nurtured by the
Chief Executive herself but unable to sprout to
fruition because of the proverbial field was littered
with rocks.

According to Neri, the rocks were the “powerful
individuals and groups” who strangle economic
development to protect their vested interests and he
likened the President’s new microeconomic approach
to removing those cumbersome rocks that were
smothering the seeds of progress. That was in 2002;
perhaps, never in Romulo Neri’s wildest dream did he
imagine that while clearing the road of pesky rocks
a truly back-breaking task lay ahead, that of
moderating greed. In six years, the rocks had become
boulders of mammoth proportions.

During that maiden interview, Romulo Neri also
advocated the controversial “open skies” policy
because it was President G. Arroyo’s avowed objective
to make the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport
a regional travel hub that would jump start the
development of both Central and Northern Luzon.
Moreover, Neri said we should have “open skies” with
Korea and the Middle East and increase seating
capacities and flight frequencies so Filipino
overseas workers would not have to “pay an arm and a
leg” just to come home. Did he succeed in removing
the meteors in our air lanes?

From “Snow White” to “Golden Compass” ( my
first movie and latest one I have seen) the forces of
evil seem to be more dynamic, formidable, relentless
and ruthlessly astute than the forces of good which
appear meek , improvised, diffused and impotent.
Naturally, in both “Snow White” and “ Golden
Compass”, the good triumphed in the end but, that
is not always the case in real life where evil seems
to reap astronomic dividends until the coming of
Karma. But that can take ages so in the mean time,
the righteous have to run for cover. Don’t you
notice how your good works always boomerang on you
with the most hazardous effects? Ask Eng. Jun Lozada,
Mr. Romulo Neri’s friend and colleague.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Genius has no country

In that electrifying space between Juan Luna’s
‘Spoliarium” and Resurreccion Hidalgo’s “Assassination
of Bustamante”, the most eloquent and heart-rending
masterpieces of Philippine art history, a concert was
held by three young and incredibly prodigious Filipino
musicians— Jovianney Emmanuel Cruz, pianist, Alfonso
Bolipata, violinist and Renato Lucas, cellist.

That Sunday evening, at the Hall of Masters of
the National Art Gallery the “Spoliarium”, enshrined
there after a perilous odyssey, continued to strike
terror and awe, just as it had in Europe where it
was first acclaimed in the XIXth century. Against
that poignant backdrop, Alfonso Bolipata rendered
“ Chaconne” , an intricately Baroque piece by Johann
Sebastian Bach; it was delightful, to say the least.

Before he began playing Amadeus Mozart’s Sonata
in C Major (K.330), Jovianney Emmanuel Cruz hinted
that we should try to detect the various
“international influences” evident in the three
movements, operatic Italian with Germanic precision,
which only Mozart could have melded in a refined
sonata. Jovianney almost always explains what he is
about to play so one’s appreciation for music grows,
the more one understands what the pieces are all

Renato Lucas’ choice “Souvenir de Song” is
definitely older than Bach and Mozart, more ancient
than Philippine colonial history itself. “Song “ is
what we know as the Sung dynasty, during which time
Kublai Khan (or was it Genghis?) and his hordes
invaded China . Under such cruel tyrannical rule, a
court musician played melodies of silent protest on a
sitar andm centuries later, those inspired Jeffrey
Ching to compose “Souvenir de Song”. He is a
contemporary Filipino-Chinese composer who is making
waves with his exotic but modern abstractions of
Chinese dynastic music. I am glad Mr. Lucas took
pains to explain that through his cello, we would
hear that rebellious spirit brooding through a
plaintive sitar; it gave meaning to his piece,
specially because we were wedged between Luna's
revolutionary allegory and Hidalgo's unconcealed rage.

The finale was spectacular because all three
musicians joined forces to play Arensky’s Piano Trio
No. 1 in d minor, opus. 32. Jovianney told the
audience that we had journeyed through various
musical periods in one evening-- ancient China to Bach
and Mozart and now Arensky who he described as a sort
of transition because he was a pupil of the great
Tchaikovsky and the teacher of Rachmaninoff.

The audience went wild after their astounding
performance so the three virtuosos obliged with an
unrehearsed encore. Then Bolipata, the violinist,
had to dash to the Cultural Center for another

That Sunday evening concert, “Musiko sa
Museo”, was a project of the Volunteer Corps of the
National Museum of the Filipino People. Ticket sales
(at Php 1,000 each) will go to a sustaining fund for
the National Art Gallery renovation project and to the
Museum’s educational programs. There is more to come ,
an Opus fest is in the works and will be held
sometime in July.

I hope our virtuosos perform in a place
steeped with history and heritage, where one can
almost hear a euphoric Jose Rizal toasting ( like he
did when Juan Luna’s “Spoliarium” won the gold medal)
to Filipino genius “…that blossoms everywhere. like
the light, the air..” Genius has no country , Rizal
said, it is as international as space, life and God

from Fil Apolonio Inocencio

It becomes a source of pride when I read about Filipinos standing for
principles. I am elated that there are still some who have not bowed
down to that almighty dollars.Thanks for you for writing about it.

from Albert Banico

I heard you in your last radio program broadcast. * It was really very educational and i regret not attending the activities sponsored by Mayor Lim. ** Honestly, i was born and lived in Manila for almost 30 years and it was the reason why the city of manila is close to my heart.
I was very happy when i heard that there is a plan to erect monuments for Macario Sakay, Sulayman and Raja Matanda, In fact earlier last year i wrote an article in Filipino at "Tanod Dyario ng Bayan" regarding Macario Sakay.
I hope that in the future through the Manileno's and the NHI (National Historical Institute) as well as other historical societies , the students historical societies will witness the erection of a monument of our "other presidents" in the order of Sacay, Miguel Malvar, Artemio Ricarte, as well as those heroes of the Philippine-American War who did not sell their countrymen.
Let us not also forget those heroes in the literary and journalism profession who also fought side by side in the clamor for an immediate independence in 1900. And of course the womens Right to Vote movement; we can gather the help of the recent feminist movement in our society to realize this. God bless you!
(* My radio program "Krus na daan" is at DZRJ 810 khz AM band, from Monday to Friday at 5 - 6 pm. Mr. Banico must caught last Wednesday's broadcast ( 6 February). Wednesdays are dedicated to Philippine history and my regular guest is Prof. Jaime Veneracion of the UP Department of History.)

(** Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim revived the Manila Historical & Heritage Commission(MHHC) which organizes "tertulias", for students and history professors, once a month at the Museo ng Maynila (Army & Navy Club building, Luneta). The MHHC also arranges the commemoration of significant events like the birth of Gen. Macario Sakay and the 109th anniversary of the Philippine-American War.)

Friday, February 8, 2008

from Javier Ruescas

Magistral artículo de nuestra estimada Gemma. Muy acertado y
excelentemente escrito. Muchos deberían reflexionar sobre la
importancia del 4 de febrero, y lo que representa. Deberían
recuperarse los ideales de la auténticamente soberana Primera
República Filipina. Enhorabuena Gemma.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Of principles and dangling modifiers

And I wanted to add— misplaced prepositions, third cousins and cabalens —but had to keep the title short. During that fateful congressional session on 4 February, while Representatives explained why they were in favor or against declaring the Speaker’s seat vacant, they were , perhaps unwittingly, murdering the English language. But, there are worse sins than bad grammar like voting for the wrong reasons, such as extended family relations ( “...became he is my third cousin.”) and tribal affinities (“ ...because she is my cabalen.”). On top of that, many congressmen shamelessly plagiarized Reverend Jackson, Mother Teresa and St. Francis of Assisi , maybe for dramatic effect.

The toppling of Speaker Jose de Venecia has nothing to do with reforms nor with democracy; it is a clash of Titans. There was so much weeping and the gnashing of teeth , among dangling modifiers and misplaced prepositions, that at first, it was hard to divine what was really at stake. Then it became clear that it was a sub-battle within a bigger more lethal war and that both have pushed the bitterly contending forces closer to Armageddon where the Executive Branch will deal the fatal and final blow on the entire Legislative Branch to achieve absolute hegemony.

Yet, in all that embarrassing, disheartening and demoralizing spectacle, there were sparks of hopefullight. The party lists of the Left rose to the occasion. They voted in the negative because they believe that changing Speakers does not constitute true democratic reform. They declared that the independence and sovereignty of the Legislative Branch are primordial and should be upheld and protected at all cost if this Republic were to remain a democratic one. That was a principled decision not taken in haste.

The consequences of that negative vote are bound to be formidable. If in the past countryside development funds came in trickles, the tap will now be permanently turned off and when constitutional amendments are enforced, the Party List system could very well disappear from our political landscape. I salute them for being true to their principles, for being forthright and patriotic, instead of succumbing to the temptations of lucrative accommodation.#

from Jose Perdigon

Bravo, Gemma, por decir las cosas como son. Si se me permite una gracieta, en el Diccionario del Diablo de Bierce se define al cínico como el que ve las cosas como son y no como debieran ser, por lo que en antiguo reino de los Escitas a los cínicos se les arrancaban los ojos para mejorar su vista.

from Sir Don Brennock, KCR

What a wonderful article. Congratulations to Gemma Cruz Araneta. My only surprise is that I thought that the vast majority of Filipinos were actively aware of this horrific event and indeed the follow-on horrors that were perpetrated, not just on Filipino troops but on the civilian population as well, including the most appalling treatment of Filipino women on the public streets. We seem to think that 'waterboarding', as it is now so casually referred to by the USA in it's treatment of some of it's 'terrorist' prisoners, is a new phenomenon. Not so. The 'Water Torture' was quite commonly used by the American troops in the Philippines at that time. They even took photographs of themselves in action. Four or five troops forcibly held down an unfortunate Filipino, a funnel with a short pipe or hose attached was inserted in his mouth and water was poured in until he confessed to something or other, gave up his comrades, or DIED by drowning.
The only eye-witness account of the events around the 4th. Feb.(my Son's birthday, so I will never forget) 1899 by an independent outside witness, that I am aware of, is 'The Filipino Martyrs' by (would you believe it, ? an Irishman) Richard Brinsley Sheridan, who happened to be travelling in the Far East at the time, was on his way back from China and heard that a revolution was going on in the Philippines. So, in the style of Victorian gentlemen of the time, he went to have a look at what was happening. His book (originally produced in 1900) is one of the FILIPINIANA REPRINT SERIES, Book 22, by Renato Constantino. A forefather of Sheridan's, also Richard Brinsley Sheridan, was a very famous Irish Writer, Playwright and Parliamentarian.
We must never allow our children to forget the reality of their history. It is part of their heritage and they are entitled to know all the facts of who they are and where they came from.

Non Omnis Moriar.

Sir Don Brennock, KCR

from Celso F. Aurelio

You're the nugget in propagating a sense of History among our kababayans. I hold all these facts near and dear and continue in my small way of trying to correct 'distortions' made by others who know less but talk more. This letter also voices some insights in your previous article re: Manila-1945.

The February incidents you mentioned less than 50 years apart are incongrouosly part and parcel of American history as well. There are footages of the Philippine-American War available and the Manila of 1945 atrocities can be viewed in a DVD produced by Peter Parsons, Baguio resident & son of Chick Parsons- MacArthurs supply and point man for contact with Philippine guerillas. This DVD is highly recommended by the 'Battling Bastards of Bataan' (BBB) organization of which I'm a humble member.

In April 2002, along with 2 busloads of American Bataan-Corregidor WWII veterans and their families and friends, (I was the only Filipino national in the group), the BBB returned to our shores to mark the 60th anniversary of the Bataan Death March. Talking with some of the vets, their respect for Gen. 'Skinny' Wainright is far greater than their respect for Gen. MacArthur. Their reasoning? Wainright stuck with them in the battlefields of Bataan. Some were also blaming MacArthur for being instrumental in the utter destruction of Manila in 1945. They also questioned the Kamikaze Museum in Mabalacat, initial jumping point for these 'crazed' pilots in hurtling themselves to death into American ships. Local politicians claim that this will promote tourism (Japanese, I reckon) in their area. We also closed-ranks with the Phil. Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor veterans in ceremonies at Camp Crame in QC. Talking with them was like reliving my late father's and other kins Bataan war experiences. As we visited most of the WWII landmarks (e.g. Cabanatuan, Capas, Bilibid Prison, Intramuros, Mariveles, Corregidor, Bataan proper, the American Memorial Cemetery-with US Sen. Inouye-Hawaii and Stevens-Alaska, both decorated WWII vets in attendance, UST- where the tour members incarcerated there during the War caught a glimpse of their old quarters), the vets also questioned the presence of Japanese markers in Corregidor. One wonders- are there any German markers in Normandy? Or can we also put up a marker at Japan's Yakasuni shrine- honoring Japan's militarism? The presence of the Japanese ambassador during the Araw Ng Kagitingan ceremonies at Mt. Samat in Bataan was the last straw, yet the practice continues to this day.

When we had a mini-March leading to the Capas shrine terminus, a lot of the barrio folks came out and waved and smiled at us. We returned the favor, hobnobbing with the locals like long-lost friends. I overheard an American daughter telling his WWII vet father- 'Dad, these folks are probably the descendants of those who gave you food and water when you passed through here'. You mentioned Senator Gordon holding a Japanese festival of sorts. In our welcome program at the Manila Hotel, some of the guests included Mr. Manchester (famous WWII European theater writer who died before he could finish a book on the Bataan Death March); Mrs. Beth Day Romulo; the daughter of Gen. Lim; Ms. Lesley- Ann Meyer and Edna Binkowski of the Fil-American Endowment- instrumental in replacing the Bataan Death March markers; and other dignitaries. Oh yes, Mr. Richard Gordon was also there. (Chicago, Il.USA)

from Dr. Celia Reyes-Acuna

Dear Gemma, I am a practicing pediatrician in Corpus Christi, Tx (UST Medical School, Class 1962). I just wanted to let you know that I enjoy reading the articles you've written. Let me know where I can read more about you and your literary work. By the way, I started the Philippine Society for the Performing Arts of Corpus Christi in 1991 and have sponsored beautiful concerts here with Lisa Macuja and her ballet group, Phil Madrigal Singers, UP Concert Chorus, Kabayao family, etc. Regards, Celia Reyes-Acuna, MD

Monday, February 4, 2008

What you should know

Every year on February 4, as far back as I can remember, my mother would tell me and my siblings about how important that day is in the life of our nation and for all Filipinos. She would always start out by saying that it is the day that we Filipinos have been taught to forget, and if only for that, 4 February 1899 is a day we must remember with our hearts and our minds.

What happened on that day?-- my younger siblings who had not quite fathomed the lesson would inevitably ask. On the streets of Silencio and Sociego in Santa Mesa , mother would way, brave soldiers of the First Philippine Republic, Filipinos like us, were guarding the blockhouses at the agreed dividing line between the US forces and the army of the Republic, after the surrender of Manila by the Spaniards.

Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo thought the Americans were our allies, and so did many of his generals, some had gone to Bulacan on leave. Suddenly, that Sunday evening , a group of American soldiers called out “Halt!” to a Filipino patrol who ignored them, and they started firing upon the Filipino lines and all along the street the firing began. That was the outbreak of the Philippine-American War.

Why is it important for us to remember that night and that first battle that followed?—mother would ask to stress the value of the historical lesson. Then she would continue with the core of her message: Filipinos today are often told that we are lost and foundering, that we find it hard to solve our problems. That is because those who do not know where they came from, will never reach their destination or learn where they are going. We must remember our past so we can reach our future destiny. That is why we must remember 4 February 1899. We must remember where we came from.

And this is where we came from: In January 1899, we Filipinos inaugurated our own free, independent First Republica de Filipinas, the first in all of Asia. We had a parliament, a Constitution, an armed forces, an operational government with a cabinet, even a university. We Filipinos had won the anti-colonial Revolution against Spain. We had fought and besieged the City of Manila and it had surrendered. The envoys of the First Republic were sent to Paris and Washington to negotiate the support of foreign nations.

All that means that we were not naked savages the American politicians said we were. We wrote and spoke a world language, Spanish, in addition to our own languages. Our young men won prizes in painting, music and literature in the capitals of Europe. We were Christians, civilized Asians with our own unique culture . We were a free people who had fought for our independence and set up our own Republic. We were building a nation! That is where we all came from. That is where we must start again today and everyday.. We must revisit 4 February 1899 to save ourselves today.

My siblings and I have remembered that valuable lesson in various degrees. I am doing my utmost to pass it on to my children and grandchildren.